The offer by Senate Republicans to not cut funding for education in the effort to patch the state's leaky budget is a great starting place to resolve the impasse in Olympia.
Republicans, who are the minority party in the Senate, were able to force negotiation on the budget when three conservative Democrats crossed the political aisle to help get a GOP-written budget through the upper chamber of the Legislature.
The House, firmly controlled by Democrats, earlier approved a budget with no cuts to education but used a gimmick to make it balance. The Democrats wanted to put off making a $330 million payment for schools until the next budget cycle starts in July of 2013.
Meanwhile, Republicans also went to the bag of tricks by proposing to skip a $133 million payment for older, closed pension plans for teachers and state workers. Their plan plan also called for making $74 million in cuts to K-12 and higher education.
Skipping payments is not an option that should be considered.
And cutting education is a concern. Higher education, in particular, has already endured deep cuts over the past few years, forcing the cost of tuition to soar. This simply can't continue.
The Republicans' offer to take the education cuts out of the budget plan should be embraced by Democrats. It, however, means other cuts have to be considered -- painful cuts to things that are important.
Republican Sen. Joe Zarelli, the lead Republican budget writer, said eliminating the education cuts was in response to concerns about the original proposal raised by Democrats and others.
Early reaction from Democratic leaders was positive.
"It's an important step in the right direction. It signals a willingness to move toward a solution to Washington's budget challenges," Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement.
But the leaders added, "We are disappointed Republicans still insist on eliminating food assistance and Disability Lifeline, and cutting services to families and children."
The anticipated revenue is about $1 billion -- that's 1,000 times $1 million -- short of covering the expected expenses.
When the Legislature adjourns from this special session we envision a budget nobody -- whether a Democrat or a Republican -- will like. It can't be about political ideology; it's got to be about doing what's right for the citizens of Washington state.
Hard choices have to be made because the state simply does not have the money to pay for it all.